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Chapter 2: chapter two
"Malfoy," I returned coldly. “What are you doing here?”
He didn’t respond, instead, he just continued to smirk at me which slowly turned into a genuine smile at my discomfort. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, waiting for him to answer my question, but after a few moments of silence, I realized that he wasn’t going to answer. My interest was piqued though, what use would this room be to Malfoy, and why had he disillusioned himself? He could have just made it clear that this room was in use the moment that I came in, but instead he hid and watched me fall apart. I didn’t understand why. There had to be something going on that I couldn’t place.
"What are you doing here Malfoy?" I asked again, but this time, I was given an answer.
"I should think that I should be the one asking you that question. But then again, I think it's too obvious that the poor Mudblood wasn't even good enough for the blood traitor. How does it feel to know that even he,” Malfoy spat the word ‘he’ out as if it had left a bad taste in his mouth, “doesn’t want to be seen with the likes of you."
I hated to admit that his words cut through me, something I blamed entirely on Ron, and I choked back more tears. I was not going to let him see me cry again tonight, especially not from something that he said. And it wasn’t even that he had called me a Mudblood, but that his words were hitting close to home with how I felt. I felt dirty, as dirty as the name Mudblood implied. I felt rejected and humiliated and there was no worse person to witness those feelings in you then Malfoy. He would somehow find a way to humiliate me further, to manipulate this situation to help him. By tomorrow the whole school would probably know what happened in this room tonight and that mortified me.
“You’re one to talk,” I finally spat out, “hiding in the corner of a room, watching me.”
“You wish that I had been watching you Granger.”
His cockiness infuriated me and I moved closer to him. “You had been watching me,” I stated though it came out more like a question.
“The events of your life are menial to me. I couldn’t care less about what transpired here tonight, I have my own things to deal with and you are not among them.”
I had had enough and turned to leave, but before I had gone even two steps, Malfoy was suddenly in front of me, blocking the exit. My heart began to race, as fear settled in. He had this crazy look in his eyes, and only Ron and Lavender knew that I was here, and even if they said anything, nobody knew that Malfoy was here.
“Let’s get something straight Granger; you didn’t see me here tonight. I’ll even go as far as saying that I didn’t even see what happened, nothing happened here tonight.” I smiled and was about to tell him that he just admitted to watching me but was cut off. “Just leave it be. I’ll let you go, just don’t look back and not a mention of this to anyone. Got it Granger?”
“What are you so afraid of people finding out?” I asked him, knowing that it couldn’t just be about me catching him alone in this room, there was something much deeper than that. But what could it be?
“I said leave it Granger.” And that’s when I noticed it, the slight pink of his grey eyes, telling me the truth. Draco Malfoy had escaped to this room for the same reasons that I had. It was a room that only a few knew about, though after tonight’s events I realized that even a few was too many, and he had wanted an escape from everyone else. Because something was proving to be too much for him, though what it was I had no idea. Maybe Pansy had turned her affections somewhere else, though I doubted that a girl would be the underlying factor of his problems.
He took a step closer to me, the distance between us now only a mere arm’s length away, and my heart began to race faster. What was he up to, I wondered as I searched his eyes for any meaning behind them. He didn’t look away, instead, he continued to look into my own eyes, and his face softened for just a moment before the mask went back up. But that one moment was all that I had needed to see the pain and suffering that he hid behind his walls.
“Malfoy,” I said softly, reaching my hand out towards him but he shrugged back.
“You better not tell anyone,” he responded, his voice once more held the harsh tone I was used to, “or you’ll wish that you hadn't. So, if I were you I would keep my mouth shut.” At that, he turned and walked out the door, leaving me finally alone like I had wanted.
I stared at the empty space that Malfoy had previously been in. What was that? For just one moment, I had been able to see the man behind his mask, and I wondered if maybe that was who he really was. Someone who was hurting deeply and maybe just needed someone to be there for him. Was Malfoy even capable of being the guy that I had seen in here tonight, the guy that just needed a companion, someone to help and guide him along? I shook my head; I couldn’t let myself think like that. I had to do as he asked, and just forget about the events that happened here tonight. I had to move on from all of this and not let him get to my head, though that was a little too late. His actions tonight were all that I could think about. He was broken, that much was apparent to me, but there was nothing that I could do about it. I was broken too, and I was the only who could pick up my pieces and put them back together, and that’s all that Malfoy could do too.
I let myself collapse onto the cold stone floor and let the tears fall once again from my eyes. This time though, it wasn’t just for Ron and Lavender and their budding relationship, but it was also for Malfoy. For the words that he said, the agony behind his eyes, and just how old he truly looked tonight. His face had looked well beyond his years, worry lines were etched into his forehead and his lips constantly pursed. He looked like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. And I knew that look well; it was the same thing that I saw every time I looked at Harry. Maybe the two of them weren’t so different after all.
After a while, I found the courage to stand back up on my feet again and return to the Gryffindor common room. Curfew was coming soon, and if the events of tonight were any clue, luck was not on my side and I didn’t want to push it. The walk back was long and lonesome and left me with way too much time to think about things that I didn't want to think about. Draco Malfoy was on the top of that list followed closely by Ron. I was still having trouble wrapping my head around everything that happened and Draco’s mysterious appearance and threats made it that much harder to ignore. I could understand why he had sought out the Room of Requirement, after all, it was what I had done too, but what I couldn’t understand was what had pushed him there? Maybe Harry was right, and he was up to something, but I still didn’t believe it.
The only other possibility in my mind was one that few would ever think about, at least when concerning Draco Malfoy that is. Was there a possibility that Draco Malfoy was stressed about Voldemort, and maybe he didn’t want anything to do with the Death Eater lifestyle that his parents upheld? Did he the refuge of an empty room to try and escape the Malfoy name? Was it all getting to be too much for him? I never felt that he was capable of the horrendous acts that a Death Eater submitted too, he liked to delegate those tasks to others, and besides that, the worst thing that he had done during our time at Hogwarts, was call me a Mudblood. That didn’t make him a Death Eater. That just made him weak.
My thoughts were interrupted as I slipped on something and looked down to see what it was. As soon as I did, I knew exactly where I was and it brought a small smile to my face. I was on the sixth floor, just before where Professor Umbridge’s office had been last year, the exact place that Fred and George had left their portable swamp. The small remainder of their swamp was a bit of a legend around Hogwarts and served as a reminder for those of us who had been here what we had gone through and that maybe sometimes, pranks were necessary.
The common room was still abuzz with activity when I finally reached it. It seemed that the lateness of the hour paid no heed to the volume of noise that barraged all of Gryffindor Tower. First years were even still among those celebrating loudly. I wondered for a moment if I should send them to bed considering their curfew had already come and gone, but for tonight, I decided to let them be. After all it was a weekend and they didn’t have to worry about classes the next day. I felt strange as I watched everyone else laugh and have fun, like I didn't exactly fit in with them. My thoughts were so far away from the Gryffindor common room that I wasn’t even sure they could find their way back here. They were preoccupied on a certain blonde in the dungeons, as it was, I was so preoccupied that I didn’t even notice that Parvati had walked over to me.
“How is your night going Hermione?” she asked me, breaking me out of my thoughts.
“It’s alright Parvati, and yours?” I politely asked back, even though really I didn’t care.
She began to gush about the night’s events that I had missed while I had been gone. Apparently Ron wasn’t the only Weasley being kissed in the middle of the common room as Dean had kissed Ginny not too long after Ron and Lavender disappeared. Of course everyone had speculated as to where the two had gone off to, they still hadn’t returned to the common room even though our curfew had already passed by. Then the conversation turned in a direction that I had not wanted it to go to, where had I run off to in the middle of the party.
“I was- I was in the library studying. I had just remembered something else that I had wanted to add to Professor Slughorn's essay about the important uses of powdered bicorn horn.” It was true enough; I did want to add in another detail about the ingredient most famous for its use in the Polyjuice potion, I just hadn’t actually gotten around to it yet. Parvati just looked at me as if I had sprouted a horn of my own for mentioning homework on a Saturday, and at a party no less.
“Well, it was good talking with you Hermione,” she said and then walked away to join in with a few girls who were giggling about Harry.
He was sitting alone on the couch in front of the fireplace, mindlessly throwing wads of parchment into the fireplace. Every once in a while he would look up and glance over by the window and the return to throwing the parchment, each time he did so, it was with even more force than the last time he looked over there. I followed his eyesight, and realized just what or who, was at the source of his misery. Of course I should have realized when Parvati told me that Ginny and Dean hooked up that Harry would be in the same boat as me. Why hadn’t I thought of it earlier to talk to him? Surely he would understand how much it hurt.
I walked over to him and sat down, tearing off a small portion of his parchment and wadding it up. The two of us sat there for a bit, neither of us saying anything, just the sound of shredding paper connecting us. If it were Ron that I was sitting next to, the silence would drive him insane, even though the common room was anything but silent. He always seemed to think that someone had to be doing or saying something.
Harry leaned into me and bumped my shoulder with his before leaning back into his spot as if nothing had happened. I smiled a bit and leaned myself into him, hitting him slightly harder than he had done to me. He tipped to his side and a smile flashed across his face. I had to admit that in that moment I realized just how striking Harry actually was. There was a twinkle in his eyes, and the fire light danced across his face, and it was one of the few moments that I couldn’t sense the chip that was almost always present on his shoulder.
“What does it feel like Harry,” I asked him, “when you see Dean kissing Ginny?”
“Probably about how it felt for you to see Ron and Lavender’s display.”
“You noticed that.” I flushed.
“Hermione, you had been right next to me when it happened, how was I not supposed to notice?”
“I guess. Well, if it’s any consolation, I don’t think that they will last,” I told him, trying to cheer him up.
“Who, Ron and Lavender? Me neither.”
“No, Harry, Ginny and Dean, I don’t think that they’ll last. They’re not meant to.”
“I just don’t want to see her hurt. I mean, she’s Ron’s sister,” he began.
“Harry, she’s not just Ron’s sister. It’s alright if you like her, I’m sure that Ron would understand.” He sighed and went back to throwing balled up bits of parchment into the fire, not saying another word. "I think I'm going to call it a night Harry. You did great today," I spoke to him quietly as I got up from my spot.
"Thank you Hermione,"Harry called to me.
I nodded and gave him a small smile before walking up the steps to the sixth year girls’ room. I felt a little better now after talking with Harry, and as bad as it may have seemed, I was kind of glad that I wasn't the only one who felt this way tonight. And in a strange way, it was nice to know that even Harry Potter could feel this way sometimes. It served as a reminder that even the people that are usually held to higher standards deal with the same pain. That thought of course brought me back to my earlier thoughts about Malfoy. Most people suspected that he didn’t feel anything at all. However, after tonight, I knew that something was able to get under his skin and break him down; I just didn’t know what that was. But it made me wonder, had he too felt loves cruel sting this evening?
The room was empty when I entered it and the silence was a nice reprieve from the chaos that flooded the common room. I plopped down on my bed and looked around at the mess that my roommates had left it in. Lavender's bed was a mess of makeup and clothes, and the trunk that was at the foot of her bed had its contents strewn about. Parvati's was nearest to the door and in a similar state of disarray as Lavender's, though hers was contained to just a small portion of her bed. Mine was neat and organized. Everything had their own place; even my nightstand was placed exactly so, making sure that it was within arm’s reach. The last two beds were pushed up against each other, creating one large bed. Those belonged to Sarah and Lisa. The two of them were always together, even before they came to Hogwarts, and many people suspected that they were in a relationship as they could be seen holding hands throughout the castle. But none of us knew for sure. Even after sharing a dorm with them for the past six years, I could only hazard a guess as to the true nature of their friendship.
I fell back onto my bed and tried to fall asleep, but sleep evaded me. All I could see were the pink rimmed eyes of Draco Malfoy or the moment that Lavender threw herself onto Ron, and neither of those thoughts were conducive of sleep. I wasn’t sure how long I had lain there, replaying the evening’s events through my mind, before a noise from the doorway caught my attention. I looked up, hoping that it was anyone but Lavender, and sighed in relief when Sarah and Lisa barged through the door. They were giggling about something and slightly leaning into each other, as if they were each trying to hold the other up from all of their laughing, and I couldn’t help but envy them. There they were without a care in the world, even though the whole school thought that they were together, and sometimes I even thought that they just played along with it just for fun. So how was it that even they could be happy but I was miserable? Was the toll of books and cleverness to be alone, to have no one who truly understood you the way that it seemed these two girls understood each other? No, I refused to believe that knowledge was an undesirable trait. Maybe it was just one that few were undeterred from, making the connection an even deeper and more satisfying one. Because what could be more satisfying than sharing your knowledge with another person and learning theirs in return? It had been with these thoughts that I was finally able to slip into sleep, dreams of a man who would someday understand my passion and thirst for knowledge.
AN: So here is the edit for Chapter Two! I want to give a huge shout out to all of my lovely Cabin mates for Camp Nano this month. You guys are really helping me keep up with the edits and keeping me motivated! Also huge thanks to Dee (HeyMrsPotter) for looking this over and helping with the process! Don't forget to leave a review! I would love to know what you think!